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DIY Silver AudioQuest VSD-5 / Valab Carbon RCA Digital Coaxial Cable Report


DIY AudioQuest VSD-5 Silver S/PDIF digital coaxial cable (20 AWG solid core 100% PSS Perfect Surface Silver center conductor, hard cell foamed PE dielectric, silver plated copper and bare copper blend braided shield + copper foil shield) terminated with Valab Carbon Rhodium Plated Tellurium Copper RCA Plugs (rhodium plated tellurium copper hollow center pin, rhodium plated brass body, carbon fiber sheathed low-mass brass barrel), covered with Techflex sleeving (1.5 meter).

When it comes to line-level analog applications, I’m a bonifide fan of copper interconnect cables. However, for digital/video applications, I find that silver conductor cable designs tend to deliver a more vivid presentation. Additionally, no matter what type of cable, the make/model connector selected for termination can determine the potential sonic performance level to be expected or at least hoped for.

NOTE: In my experience, this particular DIY cable build requires plenty of burn-in to satisfactorily blossom and come alive. From a dynamics POV, it took several days of burn-in time before the cable developed desirable aspects of PRAT as being a fully realized sonic signature strong point.

Bulk Cable & RCA Connectors:


AudioQuest VSD-5 solid core 100% PSS Perfect Surface Silver S/PDIF Digital Coaxial Cable - $7.99 per foot:


The VSD-5 cable is AudioQuest’s top of the line custom installation bulk 75 Ohm cable product for video/satellite/digital applications. It differs from AudioQuest’s pre-made model VDM-5 cable which features a smaller 24 AWG pure solid core silver center conductor and a carbon energy dissipation layer not featured in the VSD-5 design. An unusual thing about the cable sourced from AudiophileAnswers is the braided shield features a blend of alternating braided bundles of silver plated copper strands and bundles of bare copper strands which is not mentioned in AudioQuest’s literature. It gives me cause to wonder if the AudiophileAnswers sourced cable might be an AudioQuest prototype. Also to note is that the cable features a copper foil shield rather than a more common aluminium foil shield. The cable is directional, so it should always be connected with the arrows printed on the cable jacket pointing from source to load. Also to note is the cable is rather slim, so large cable OD capable connectors require some sort of cable OD build-up material such as heat shrink in order for the cable strain relief set screw to have a firm grip on the cable in order to achieve proper strain relief. I use and recommend Nexcare Flexible Clear First Aid Tape (a.k.a. 3M Transpore Medical Tape) for the task available at local drug stores.


Valab Carbon Rhodium Plated Tellurium Copper RCA Plugs - $24.00 per set of four:


While Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it can become an infringement of intellectual property rights if taken too far. However, if a given product is not a look-alike or have certain markings of fakery, it’s hard to consider such a thing to be a counterfeit item. That said, the basic design concept of the Valab Carbon rca connector seems to have been derived from Acrolink’s pricey RCA-CF9.5 and RCA-CF11.5 rca connectors which feature a hollow center pin, rhodium plating, and a carbon fiber sheathed barrel. While I don’t really consider a $24 per set of four Valab product to be a cloned knock-off of an $850 per set of four Acrolink product, the inspiration behind the particular design seems to be at least a flattering attempt to approximate the notion of a SOTA build. That said, the build quality of the Valab Carbon connector is very good, with a fit and finish worthy of being considered an audiophile quality connector. The set of connectors were promptly shipped from Taiwan and arrived via USPS registered mail without any issues of tax and duty. Also important to note is that the area of the connector body where the shield is to be soldered should first be carefully pre-tinned with solder since a cold solder joint may otherwise be a result. However, the rca connector center pin solder platform does not present such an issue.

Evaluation Observations:

This DIY pure silver digital cable build presents a well defined image focus with very nice leading-edge transients, extended frequency extremes, a firm and open sounding soundstage, good dynamics both micro and macro (after ample burn-in time), good inner detail, coherent spatial cues and ambient information retrieval. When placed in the digital front end of my main audio system, the tonal presentation of the cable is decidedly on the cool side of neutral but not in a too analytical vs. musical manner. An assertive presentation for sure, but not too aggressive nor too forward sounding. Most importantly, timbral information is acceptably natural (for digital) and obvious to the ear. It’s sonic signature is neither bright nor etherial sounding as some folks might suppose/expect from silver wire. I find it to be a good sounding silver digital cable and simply enjoyable as a high performance digital cable regardless of type.

While not quite as vivid and a bit leaner sounding (as in less tonal bloom) than my more expensive reference DIY Oyaide FTVS-510 continuous cast 5N pure solid core silver S/PDIF digital coaxial cable terminated with Xhadow Precision RCA connectors, the DIY AudioQuest VSD-5 solid core 100% PSS Perfect Surface Silver S/PDIF digital coaxial cable terminated with Valab Carbon Rhodium Plated Tellurium Copper RCA Plugs does have a similar personality, in that it definitely presents what I’ve found to be a solid core pure silver digital cable sonic signature (to my ear). As an aside, one must consider that this DIY build should not be seen as an attempt at SOTA; it’s an economic high-performance answer to obtain the gestalt/essence of a particular cable type.

Connector Option:


Another rca connector termination option to consider from a one stop shopping POV, and/or perhaps a warmer sounding gold plated connector choice, and/or a somewhat easier termination project would be the DH Labs RCA-3 Tiffany style rca connector (made by Vampire, I believe) designed/intended for coaxial cable terminations, also available from AudiophileAnswers for $19.99 per pair with free shipping. It’s likely a better rca connector than the mundane entry level AudioQuest RCA-300 rca connector (see image below) that AudiophileAnswers offers for their pre-made AudioQuest VSD-5 digital cable product, not to mention an “installer-friendly” AudioQuest rca connector version pre-made AudioQuest VSD-5 digital cable product also available from AudiophileAnswers eBay store.

An interesting thing I found is HCM Audio offers their pre-made version of the AudioQuest VSD-5 terminated with discontinued mid-line model AudioQuest rca connectors priced at $214.95 (1.5 meter length):


Cheers, Duster

Edits: 04/03/11

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Topic - DIY Silver AudioQuest VSD-5 / Valab Carbon RCA Digital Coaxial Cable Report - Duster 12:02:57 04/03/11 (9)


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